from top, right to left: iggy pop, nina, spencer weisberg, mike watt, scott asheton,
ron asheton, chris wujek, jos grain, merchman bob, eric fischer, henry mcgroggan
and steve mackay
a word's-eye view from mike watt
of gigs done by the stooges in
in the summer of 2005
saturday, august 6, 2005 - lokeren, belgium
at least it wasn't a crack of dawn flight (those seem to come fairly often right after a late night gig) so I could get a good paddle in my kayak thursday morning, two days before the gig here at the "lokerse feesten" in lokeren, belgium. the plan is usually to get me a day before we play, to both insure against any travel foul-ups/delays and to get me acclimated to the locale (I guess but so many years of touring have in fact "acclimated" me to just wailing when I have to - it's more of a pad against transpo fuckups in my mind cuz man, would I dig the extra day in my pedro town otherwise!). I have to say I've never had a summer of flights going over and back across the u.s./atlantic ocean like I got going in the spring/summer of 2005. it's eight times (four trips total) for august alone. I could've been like scotty and just holed up in england (london) the whole time but I think it might've made me a little crazy - just where I'm at now (life-wise) so I'm putting up w/the grind of riding many, MANY hours in a metal tube breathing people's farts (and foisting my own on them, what a wonderful world) to keep a grounding for myself in my pedro town. hope this doesn't sound like whining cuz hell, it's the stooges and I would make do w/whatever hell for the chance to play w/these cats. the first trip in april was for my own secondmen euro tour anyway. I like playing in europe like I like playing home in the u.s. - I like playing and the touring life is a sailor's life anyway... like my pop, must be where I got some of the hankering for it. this is what I'm telling myself as I'm sitting in the airport and eating this caesar salad w/chicken in it, waiting for the flight. actually I'm choking it down 'pert-near cuz why else would you pay seven bucks for something like this if it was to have the privilege of 'pert-near choking it down? I just wanted something green in me to flush me out sometime during the upcoming flight. what a trip to think I'm flying to europe every weekend in august to play w/the stooges though! who would've ever thought a life could add up to something like this?!
on the flight to england I finished up one of those kind of reads where I underline a sentence or part of one where it whups up a big impression on me - kind of like a note of some kind I guess but it's not really for me cuz why I do it is to give the book on to someone else and then by them reading where I underlined, they might get an angle/perspective on me they might not otherwise get. I know, that's weird but maybe weird is what weird does, right? anyway, the book is a mindblow one that my cleveland friend uncle ray gave me last fall when I toured the u.s. and I was like ninety percent done when it got "lost" - I actually "found" it in my practice pad, having no idea how it got there - that pad is for prac w/music, not for books! I really have less inklings about what I'm about than might seem apparent. anyway, I brought this first book by helen dewitt, "the last samurai" (which has nothing at all to do w/a movie tom cruise was in last year despite them both being called the same thing) to get it all done up. man, is it an intense read - basically "about" a lady raising her son by herself and him tripping on who his pop could/would be - I guess cuz like most good books, it's like all kinds of shit - maybe a little about the writer, huh? I dig the way a monk tune ("straight no chaser") has something to do w/the wind-up. well, this is what I used to keep somewhat together as I did the ten hours to heathrow airport, outside of london. I got the little red gibson bass (the mid-60s eb-3 one that was found snapped along a former crack where the headstock meets the neck in six-fours, france) w/me (actually it's in the baggage compartment) cuz I had the neck glued up and a gig night before last at dipiazza's in long beach (w/peter and perk from the old porno for pyros days in fact doing a wail-out on coltrane tunes!) proved it maybe had some strength to withstand a watt-grapple, seeing that it did in fact not come apart. now there's two hours in between this transatlantic flight and the little one to brussels in belgium (zavendem airport) so I'm thinking that's way enough time to get the bass from one plane to the other but after the little one hour trip to the continent, I find it was indeed not enough time and my little red gibson bass is still at heathrow in england. at least I'm at the head of the line to make a claim w/the baggage people (a very nice lady who digs the stooges and even says I'm playing tonight instead of tomorrow in the paperwork in hopes it might hurry things up some) cuz there's a shitload of folks who's shit back where we just flew to. what a feeling, to stare at that forever (seemingly) turning baggage carousel that is forever w/out your crap. I only ONLY check on baggage if I really have to, preferring the carry-on dealio. after getting done w/that and being given a "lost baggage wallet" (sort of envelope to hold your claim paper), I finally clear customs and there's a guy w/a sign that says "lokerse festival" so I head straight for him. man, he was waiting big time - not know what happened w/me. he's a nice guy named "schumie" (a nickname, he says - hope I'm spelling it right) who I later find out is a crane operator. he did some navy time too so I share some w/him about my pop. his english is good, like a lot of euros. brussels is an maze w/an outer ring and "small" ring downtown to help get you around. europe is old so streets are tiny and not at right angles, pretty intense. the small ring is not circular but actually five-sided, kind of looking like a home plate in baseball. I was here in may w/my secondmen guys so know it somewhat. what a trip to think how I had no city map - I'd just drive us to bus stop map and try to figure things from there. I know, sounds insane but it worked - we made every gig. schumie's not really a brussels cat so it takes a little bit, maybe three hours (a lot of traffic and of course the lost bass shit) after landing, I get to the 'tel which is a fancy one called the conrad (as in conrad hilton, I guess) in the southeast part of the town, right off the "home plate" ring on luiza (or louise - everything's in flemish and french lots in belgium). I thank schumie for the safe ride and company. I'm the last to get in, everyone's already here so after a bit (especially a soak to get that flying filth off me), we all meet up to hoof a few blocks away to a small kind of restaurant row and pick out one called "le vigne" and chow there. the cats working there speak italian lots, I think that's where they're from. the specialty is mussels and I order that for my chow. out comes this huge pot w/like at least fifty mussels in a light cream sauce w/chives. a duevel beer too (belgian beer is really good) - I never drink beer except a little bit w/these stooges guys. I make a soup after clearing out most of the pot of shells and dig it much, a really good chow for watt - thirty euros ($36 u.s.) worth... I can do one do one of these a trip. it's good to catch up w/steve, rik, eric, chris, ron and scott - hell, it's been what, like a whole week? we get back to the 'tel and scott asks me to come to this bar that's part of the 'tel called "loui" and ron, steve and rik have already staked out a place. I sit mainly to keep company cuz tiredness is coming up on me kind of strong - a nine hour time difference w/my pedro town. one thing that pops me awake a little is hearing those guys get their bill - guess rik was ordering shots of a scotch (I think called "craggmoore" or something like that) that were twentynine euros a hit! yeah, my whole chow in one guzzzle. damn, they should've told him. maybe. steve reasoned it out w/the young man behind the bar cuz it was hard for them guys to understand their bill before the got it itemized. I think his and ron's were like eight or nine euros a throw. don't mean to give so much focus to this, it's just how the first night in belgium went.
ok, finally the day of the gig. no free shovel at this pad so I hoof out early and explore the area around the palace of justice but of course I only brought one battery for the little camera and that one was 'pert-near exhausted so I return after a bit. it was on the way to the middle of town and I did get to see this huge old synagogue besides that justice place. I think more than justice gets done there cuz it looks like some of it is being squatted by both pigeons and some homeless folks. there's lots of reconstruction on it too, the major part first being to have the "dome" redone - like our capitol building dome in d.c. but w/a crown on top! kind of corny but then I'm from pedro. when I get the batteries back at the 'tel, I decide to hoof the other way - towards away from the middle and take the luiza road all the way to where it ends, getting a falafel pita on the way (only three euros). it clears my mind and helps push blood through me which I really need, even if the sidewalk makes it hard on my knees via the hoofing. I see this trippy monument - it's a man's head in an old leather flying helmet and it's gilded up all gold. on the pillar holding it up, it says this in tribute for this guy crashing his plane into the gestapo headquarters here in brussels. I get lots of shots of stuff that grabs me - the funny man w/the little camera trying to learn what he can w/'pert-near hardly a word to any of the natives. I just to try to soak up what I can, let what I find set off things in my head by weird referencing, trying to make sense for myself somehow, try to grasp. I can imagine someone's take on pedro w/just one big hoof through town!
we're on stage at eleven pm so we bail from the 'tel at nine. we set off for lokeren which is like an hour from brussels. I only had that pita today cuz damn if I didn't get stuffed on all those mussels last night. I got a shirt that bobby alt gave me last month while I was doing some gigs on the warped tour. he's got a unit that played that too called the street drum corps and that's what the shirt is for, he used spraypaint to put a stenciil on it. don't wear many white t-shirts but I'm sure proud to have this one on cuz I dig bobby much. glad to have the john coltrane pin on it too. real glad to have my little red gibson bass on! it's an outside gig and the weather's clear. last night I found out it's being filmed for a possible dvd release - aahh, now I'm a little shook up over thinking on that - like w/recording, they call it "red light fever" and it's like you psych yourself out cuz of you realizing you performance is being captured which can causing some big choke. I kind of wish I wasn't even told, so embarrassing... I was kvetching on rik over it - he's got a much more relaxed attitude about it which much more happeing. he must think I'm a fucking lunatic... I don't even know why I spouted those insecurities except for maybe that's what they just are: insecurities. same thing at the soundcheck in luzern where I was worried about bogarting and causing problems w/the sound limits placed on the gig by civil authorities and reacting on that by being kind of sarcastic w/jos - both times I felt like a total idiot later and made my apologies to both of them cuz they've helped me much w/these stooges gigs and for that I really owe them much gratitude and not grief. I'm not even thinking when I spout like (a big part of the problem) but instead am acting out from a little boy fear script that I should someday fucking be able to grow up from. the shit's 'pert-near like puppet strings pulling on me.
anyway, back to the now and the gig at hand. ig braves the cig smoke and comes in to our dressing room to rally us up... considering everything, he's in good spirits. he's been in alacante, spain since we last seen him. it has been heavy for all of though in that time cuz suddenly last wednesday, iggy managerman for twenty years and righteous dude art collins collapsed at his desk in his home in upstate new york and died of a heart attack. he was only fiftytwo. it was a huge heartbreak for me cuz I loved him much. damn. he always had a good word for and was a gentle man though a hands-on, salt of the earth cat - he'd be in the pit, helping ig climb back on stage. he was always humble and never shallow w/me, giving me full respect so much respect back to you art, I'm playing tonight's gig and all the stooges gigs I do for you. it's time-time now and tourboss henry leads us to the stage. what an insane week it's been for him, I can imagine. henry's another righteous cat - so many good folks on this team have treated so right, I owe them all much. it would take of spiel here for me to chimp to express try and express right and I know I'd still fall way short in how much I appreciate all the stooge team, on and off the stage. sorry for this tangent but the feelings inside my are just rushing out... let me talk about the gig some though...
it sure is good to play the little red gibson bass - plus eric got a new tuner to use, the korg dt-1000. the old korg (dtr-1) was flaking out last time. it is really, REALLY on fire as we storm out the first five tunes: "loose," "down on the street," "1969," "I wanna be your dog" and "tv eye" - the same rundown we've been doing now since that first gig in coacella (march 24, 2003). hell, the whole band is charging hard - the asheton brothers really, REALLY burning it up as much as ig but using machines rather than just pure body. everyone's spirit is BOLD and spurs me on much. same w/the belgian cats out in the crowd, they're way into it - like fifteen thousand of them, the field out in front of us packed up. to hear iggy sing his heart out and see him dance, leap, spin and gesture... damn, it's infectious as hell on me - I go and go! I keep it together enough for "dirt," "real cool time" and "no fun" (good dancing from folks nerved-up enough to join us on stage) but in "1970" I stumble some... during ron's guitar solo, I came over to his side to get a face-full - my head right in his amp speakers and for some reason I let go of my bass duty and just let those searing notes take my mind right up to the stratosphere and that's where I lost it - I had no idea where I was supposed to be w/my machine. thank god ronnie plays great rhythm guitar cuz as soon as he left solo world, he got the groove back on for me and I recovered after such a foul-up. I gotta remember I'm kind of like the cats in the crowd get bowled over by the stooges but at the same time, I'm part of this unit and gotta hold up my part - keep it together. what a fucking spacecase, what a tumblechild. aaaaarrrrggghhhhh. pissed at myself, I really, REALLY focus for the rest: "fun house/l.a. blues," "skull ring" and "dead rock star" - ig hollers "little doll - you think you'd know the answer by now!" and he's pointing right at me but I gotta wait for scotty's flam cuz that's how the asheton brothers have changed it to make sure we're tight from the git-go on it but I'm wondering if iggy's hip to that. I know scotty likes to hold back on reacting to "NOW!!!" cuz he just does - he's told before he thinks it gives some push by riling iggy up some. I just don't wanna be blowing the boat out of the water, that's all. the second take on "...dog" and we're off to the side of the stage, ig telling us to get back for "not right" as soon as he gets a little breath. man, has he been phenomenal tonight, holy fucking smoke!
we come off stage and me and scotty talk about being a little freaked cuz of knowing about the filming for the potential dvd thing. not to make excuses but damn, we both express wishing we wouldn't have know it was going on 'til the gig was over! ain't life funny that way? I thought scotty was slamming a strong groove anyway so he was hiding any nervousness from me pretty ok. ig calls over to his room for some of this bordeaux wine and he talks to my some about art collins. he tells me, "art was a real mensch" and I couldn't agree more w/him. I can see in his face it's a big hurt to lose such a brotherman like art. it's a heavy moment but there's a joy too knowing we played our hearts out for him. ig also said he could hear really good on stage, the guitar and bass mixed in good. I tell him about getting the little red bass fixed and the last three gigs had me using jos' backup epiphone one. he said he could tell the diff big time. me too. I get foamed up when ig says he's digging our playing behind him, means much to me. of course, he's so very inspiring - the bow of the fucking boat!
it's an hour long ride back to brussels. me, scotty and steve are in the "roken" (dutch for smoking) minivan and steve's got a full-on yammer going which is good cuz it makes the ride seem really short. or maybe it seems that way cuz I konked for most of it. when the adrenaline leaves me, I get sapped hard. getting up to my room, I konk in my outfit on the deck cuz I am that beat, that worn. whoa.
sunday, august 7, 2005 - nandrin, belgium
I pop at like ten am after be so wrung out from last night. I wanna get moving though cuz my old pedro friend lis (nanny's sister) sent me a list of places to check out - her grandpa was belgian and she came here not too long ago and had a great time exploring brussels. I'll try to do as much as I can. like I mentioned yesterday, there's no free shovel for morning trough at this 'tel so might as well find it on the hoof. one of the places lis told me to check out is a chow pad named "the ultimate hallucination" so I head that way. it's north of the center of town so on the way, I pass stuff built in the old days in the koningsplaats (first there's a hilarious water fountain built around a duck 'pert-near goosestepping in a wetsuit!), kingdom things like royal houses and parks - there's a statue of godefroid de bouillon on his horse. this was the "first" king of jerusalem, the result of the first crusade (the only one that was "successful") - he was crowned that in 1100. there's the art and music museums here too but I'll get to them later. I'm hungry and got some more to go. I pass the botanical gardes (beautiful - wish I had time) and 'pert-near almost to saint mary's church (ave maria), I find "de ultieme hallucinatie" but it's closed - aaaaaaaaarrrrrrrrrgggggggghhhhh! oh well, there was great eyegifts on the way and using hoofing to pump blood through me is a good thing, even if it's a little hard on my knees. I hoof back down to the town's center and over to the grote markt, what sights here! there's a huge open cobblestone yard ringed w/huge old guild and government buildings. a big old church too all gothic style w/many statues carved up on it - all these faces, probably based on living people of those time? what really interests me is the little folks they usually got under the pedestals that hold them, trippy little scenes they're involved in. there's the galleries royales saint hubert that was one of europe's first big outdoor mall. I take many, many snaps w/the little minolta digicamera. though there's clouds, the sun is out bright and the weather's beautiful though I've learned that europe's skies can change in a moment and that's why I got my yellow coat on. I journey through the old narrow streets 'til I find the "manekin pis" - a statue of a little kid pissing into a fountain - there's a story about some little kid putting out a fire that threated to burn all of brussels down, something like that. I get nanny a little statue of this cuz she asked me before I left pedro. there's tons of kitsch for sale in all the shops here ("tin tin" from the old comic has quite a presence) - loads of finely crafted chocolate too. there's chow pads all around - scotty said there were no "belgian waffles" that he could see but man, he should've come here cuz there's like tons, all kinds of intense toppings on them. I pass though and go for a "pita grece" at little outdoor pad. it's like a gyro w/french fries in it and is only three euros. I then hoof up to the museums. first I explore the museum of musical instruments and it's wild. no electric guitars or basses - this is stuff from a hundred years ago and before. the sax was invented by a belgian named adolph sax (hence the name) and there's tenor, alto and soprano ones made from him in 1860. man, I wish I could've taken pictures (not allowed) and even more, how I wish steve mackay was w/me at this moment cuz I know he would gush. there's like fifty different kinds of bag pipes too not to mention all the different woodwinds and horns you could think of (one baby had seven bells sprouting from it!). there's lots of old harpsichords and pianos too along w/violins, mandolins, lutes and early guiatrs. drums stuff also, like talking ones from africa - this pad is pretty amazing, whoa. I next go to the art museums and first check out the "ancient" part but get so carried away getting lost in the pieces that I find myself having no time for modern part cuz of them having to close. so much great stuff - the only disappointment was finding a heironymous bosch "temptation of saint anthony" (the big triptich one) being "a reproduction" - the original being in lisbon. aaarrrggghh, why didn't I go see that there when we played there in july? idiot watt. I guess I could've made time for all the magrites and dalis in the modern section but then I would've had to run through all the old stuff. I should've done part one of all of this yesterday. well, what happened, happened (I also to check out the victor horta house where this guy built everything - even the screws and this weird art guy, a.j. wiertz' museum). at least I got to see what I got to see. damn, those huge rubins were wild, all the flemish stuff is great. painting is a definite trip and moves me much. I always think of my friend raymond pettibon when I see art, I always am thinking "what's raymond thinking when he sees this works?" he's such a talent in himself, very inspiring for me - big time. I guess art's kind of like a chain-reaction in lots of ways but it occurs to me it's pretty private too. man, the most intense thoughts get fired up in my head by falling into these "art trances" that happen to me when I'm bathing in it. wish I knew more but the experience itself is sure captivating. to see brughels all close up and real like that, damn! lucky fucking watt.
wouldn't you know it, I just get done and begin my hoof back and the rain comes down! I stay close to the sides of the big buildings and make my way back to the conrad 'tel, stopping at a little grocery store where I get a jug of drinkable yougurt, six bar-b-q chicken drumsticks, olives w/pickled herring wrapped around them and a big water (bubbled up) for eight euros - econo. we're leaving at 8:30 pm for the gig so I got time to chow all this down and then hose off. I visit scotty for a few minutes and implore him to think about joining in me on some of these hoofings cuz he's got quite an eye for detail and an inquisitive mind - I think he'd dig see all this. I know steve did when I took him around that day in vienna last summer. one thing about the stooges camp, there's some interesting/intelligent cats besides being also passionate about the freaking out wild music. it might not seem to make sense but if you knew them like I've come to learn, it'd be totally obvious. they got minds that are lit! I know ron's gonna spend a bunch of time in the imperial war museum when he gets to london in a couple of days.
belgium has two main parts: one in the north called flanders (their flag has a black lion on yellow) where the speak flemish ('pert-near dutch) and a walloon one in the south (their flag has a red rooster on yellow) where they speak french. last night's gig was in the flanders part and tonight's is in the walloon part, near leige. it's the nandrin festival, named for the town it's in. the drive there is an hour and a half. I konked for most of it so time seemed to go right past. the backstage is like a half mile from the stage and it's like a two story house. they're gonna drive us to where we're playing, the typical outdoor assembled type of stage but there's much plastic wrapped around cuz the rain is coming down though it does seem to start and stop. I should be all sore and work cuz of my eight hours of straight hoofing earlier but I guess I'm all up cuz of the excitement of doing a stooges gig. I feel no fatigue though scotty says he's feeling some. his spirits are good though, like all of us - just another half hour or so of pacing. it's pretty cold, ron's worried about his fingers on his left hand cuz w/this kind of weather the strings just slice his fingers up due to their stiffness. I've always been amazed at how he never warms up before the gigs - helperman chris hands him his guitar at the side of the stage and he just goes! damn. scotty however beats up a storm on his kneepad - he's got vic firth signature drumsticks now, his name in his very own hand printed up on them. finally it's go time and we head down the steep-angled stairs to two minivans that take us to the stage, a long way away. why's the driver going so fast w/folks all around and wetness about? seems stupid to me. anyway, soon we're there and it's up some steel stairs to this pre-fab stage. there's some wind, rain and definitely some chilliness but I know a few songs I'll be sweating up the t-shirt I got on, one from my good pedro friend dirk vandenberg gave me of where he works: a blue on black job that says "benbow aviation - zamperini field, torrance, ca" - that's an ariplane rental company a small civic airport not too far from my town.
gig time: iggy hollers "let's go" and I run out on the stage but where's my bass? helperman chris comes running up w/the little red gibson after both me and jos give each other puzzled looks cuz we both don't know what's up but chris says he never got a heads-up... no matter, cuz the gig is on. we're doing the same set as last night in lokeren but this one is way more balls out and at the same time more together. the crowd's just as wild if not as big (roadboss eric told us this was the third and final day of the nandrin festival and today's count was bigger than the first two days put together) but you know iggy, he's not gonna sleepwalk through any gig and give it his all. I know the asheton brothers are too though scotty at the end said he was pretty tired and it was a tough one for him... I have to say it was hard for me detect even an inkling of that cuz he was slamming it up good. same thing w/ron and lead guitar though this time in "1970" I made sure to keep it together and not space like last night. man, that was embarrassing. whenever I feel I'm even in the slightest way letting these guys down I want beat the total shit out of myself, it hurts me hard. I know the only way I can make it better is to make it better the next time and not try to make excuses or try to bury it up in blather w/words. even if I don't get called on it, I know when a clams been blown by me and I gotta make sure I make myself face that thruth cuz that's the only way I know I can do my upmost for this righteous stooge band and pay respect to mister dave alexander, a guy I can never really replace - just try to do a good job in his honor. like I said, the rundown of the songs was the same as last night but cuz of different people witnessing and bringing their energy plus iggy, ron, scotty and never playing things EXACTLY the same way twice - keeping it in the moment, it was a carbon-copy of lokeren. the rain let up, folks danced a crazy dance w/iggy to stooge music in the middle but in their own walloon way - there was a trippy solitary dancer on my side while the crowd chased iggy around the stage - for a moment it was like these two weirdos were pasted onto a strange real-life version on a ramped-up wild part of brueghel peasant wedding scene (well at least the guy w/the bass you could safely call a weirdo, the lady seemed ok and just funned up), lots of guys would come over too for a second or two and give me the "alright!" sign which lights me up. there is quite a legacy w/the stooges - held not just by the band but by the people too. I can't get that caught up w/myself to ever forget that, in ways I'm just a vessel. it's ok cuz what a fleet to sail w/if get my drift.
iggy bails right from the stage in a car to the 'tel, "a runner" what tourboss henry calls it. we take the minivan back to the dressing room pad and some pizzas are brought in. I take two posters for the stooges playing this gig off the wall and get them in my sack for pedro - them being so big, I have to "foad" them. helperman chris comes and takes one of the pizzas and just "foads" that and chows the whole thing, whoa! me and saxman steve each find a sack of belgian coff and put that in our sacks for home. actually, I'm wrapping this shit up in my coat cuz only steve has a sack - one he got in his closet of his 'tel room. knobman rik and mershman bob come join us and boy are they pissed that chris chowed that whole peetz himself - not that there was like six or seven other ones but all those had meat in their toppings and rik/bob don't chow meat. things look heavy, maybe even close to chigasos but ron lightens things up by proclaiming "pizza wars" and things calm - a little. chris fired back he didn't bitch when there's veggies on the peetz and has to pick them off (chris doesn't chow most vegetables and rik/bob were bumming about being told to pick the meat off if they wanted it meatless)... you know this little shit happens on a tour - we gotta a good team and this shit's tiny. there's 'sheesh to consume so scotty leads the charge on that w/me and steve-man in tow. it's a an hour and a half ride to the 'tel.
I spiel a lot more on the way back than last night though the rides are organized the same. hey, only three cats in our boat - no prob if that's the way they want it. only a couple of hours of konk and then it's up early for the ride back to the airport I flew in from. yes, hours and hours are involved but it's ok and well worth it. playing w/these guys is the chance of a lifetime, like everything I've done before has been adding up to give me this shot - all the learning d. boon and others have been so generous to give me. my sister melinda waits patiently for me to clear what I have to clear to let her pick me up, very generous of her too. watt is a very lucky man... seeing the cranes come up from the docks as we wind down the freeway to san pedro... I very much know this to be true.
saturday, august 13, 2005 - colmar, france
ok, second jump to europe this month for stooges action this month but only one gig worth. still much worth cuz fuck, it's the stooges! thursday,my sister melinda brought me to the airport only a couple of hours after paddling the harbor here in l.a. (the part closest to san pedro) in my kayak - I even made a twenty second movie while I was in the middle of the angels gate (the opening in the breakwater where you get into the open sea) to send out to say I'm leaving for france... the sense of time and place gets trippy for me - I'll be back here paddling (hopefully) in four days and like eleven thousand miles of flying later... it's kind of crazy too for the flying scene cuz the baggage handlers for british airways have walked off the job in support of hundreds of workers who make the sandwiches for the airplane chow getting scissored so tourboss henry and roadboss eric sure had their hands full re-arranging flights for the stooge team to make it for this gig, especially me and saxman steve mackay cuz we came back to the u.s. after last week's belgian shows. everything was very much in flux 'til the last minute but I got on a flight to heathrow airport in england like was originally planned. what's a ten hour flight like for watt and his bad knees? well worth it cuz it's for a stooges gig! I make everything else secondary for this grail opportunity, even any discomfort - bite the bullet, watt. funny how people are surprised if you're doing music, you should be up in the bourgeoise seats but folks should know watt jams econo so it's ok! I'm really lucky to have this gig, big time. the how I get to make it there and have it happen ain't no heavy weight on me. the original plan was for me to have a six hour layover in england and for some insane reason, I did flow a semi-whiney email to the henry/eric that I so much I was ashamed/embarrassed to have sent 'pert-near moments after hitting the 'send' key. why did I do that? sometimes I can't believe I do the things I do. I immediately sent an apology email saying in so many words what in the fuck was I doing in some kind of tiara-wearing pose? a hose-head freak out? big time. I get momentary lapses of perspective from time to time, I wish for the life of me I could get that together - everyone gets foolish notions but to fucking make them actual by acting on them? I gotta keep it together. anyway, this is what I was thinking of in the back of my head while hurtling across the u.s., canada and the north atlantic ocean in this metal tube connected to wings and recycling fart after fart being shared by my fellow passengers (myself firing back as much as I could muster) and reading umberto eco's new novel, "the mysterious fire of queen laona." one thing sure making these flights more bearable (besides the righteous stooge gig at the end of the ride) is these noise-cancelling headphones, truly a balm. I use them mostly to block out what they can and not use the detachable audio cable to bring in sounds. sort of like those mufflers jack-hammer operators use on their ears for work.
in london was where my flight changes were - instead of doing the big wait and then heading for basel (switzerland) on british air, there's a nice cat named joe waiting for me to drive me to the 'tel scotty's been staying at (he don't dig flying and has been over here since july in between gigs). big hugs for scotty and ron, always the best to see them once again. eric joins us in a drive for london city airport, a little one. remarkable how light the traffic is for london, the weather too is 'pert-near like the calm kind I just left in my pedro town. I'm always gauging the local climate to where I am to the "cali weather" I so much love. I can't help it, weird. there's a "tuna and sweet corn" sandwich here in the crowded-up little airport which I use to supplement the airplane gruel I forced down on the transatlantic flight, I cram in salt/vinnegar potato chips in between the tuna/corn and bread for texture/flavor... me and scotty talk about on our way here up the escalator how the two police people w/machine guns weren't just making a presence like how you usually see police/military people at airports w/machine guns - these guys (a man one and a woman one) were looking close down at everyone below, fingers on their triggers - I realize that I was down where they're looking just seconds ago and getting the once-over too... intense times probably cuz of those london tube/bus bombings last month. the reality of the moment. please, let us be able to do stooges gigs - I don't mean to be self-centered. the weirdness of parallel universes, I know. I'm lucky to be able to sling a bass and not a gun... what kind of life is more cartoon. do I embarrass myself to have such thoughts? I tend to weird-out... get it together, watt. a small turboprop job to basel - why basel, switzerland when the gig's in france? well, this airport is actually at the border of switzerland, germany and france and it's the closest one to the rhineland region of france where colmar is, the town we're playing. a minivan takes us to the 'tel, one called l'hotel europe in horbourg which isn't too far from where the gig is. it's late, like eleven and I have some beers w/the guys - everyone's gathered from their journeys to get here, all of us made it safe. less than a week since I last seen everyone but we always got catching up to do cuz this team has very interesting cats aboard, everyone of them.
there's a free shovel in the morning so I trough it up. to look out the 'tel window, you might think it's iowa or kansas cuz of all the corn growning and even big ol' sunflowers! righteous mild weather (again, "cali like") and I hoof around the area near the 'tel. I find a supermarket and they got water for like sixty cents of a euro for a liter and a half - the 'tel wants three and half euros for half a liter... that's why watt gets 'pert-near nothing at the 'tel! they also got like twenty kinds of sardines so I get a tin of pimento ones (hard to find anything w/chilis that got real heat in europe, damn) and the closest think I can find to saltines (this and the 'dines are econo too) so I can chow that before we have to bail for the gig. chowing too soon before we play pounds on me too hard so earlier is better. I got a shirt for the gig I got at the airport, it's got the tube (london subway) symbol w/"mind the gap" written on it. first though there's a soundcheck so we go do that quick at three pm - once again ron's got sickness in his gut, he thinks from the airplane "food" he had. I feel so bad for him cuz so many times this summer here in europe he's had attacks on his digestive system. not just him but steve, scott and even iggy have spoke of ailments that way. maybe it's all the years of hellrides that has given me "tour-gut" or whatever that makes me more resistive to such assaults... I remember getting poisoned lots when I first started tour life many years but it got less and less as time and the miles went on. I think luck has a lot to do w/it too though. we do a quick check w/first jos singing "no fun" and then helperman chris doing "I wanna be your dog" (ig never soundchecks, saving it all for the real deal). we go back and I hit the eco book.
time to bail time and we pile into the minivan for the gig. now I got the "mind the gap" shirt on. I think about that stupid clothes chain back in the u.s. called "the gap" and hope to crimony there's no confusion w/that here cuz I am surely no shill for them! "mind the gap" is what you hear when you get on the tube, some pre-recorded voice droning it on and on - to keep you aware not to fall in between the train and the platform (the "gap"). I know don't why I got this shirt. whatever, we here to play and that's what's important. last night, I looped this movie on my 'puter for scotty and steve that alexander, a cat from moscow who's been to a bunch of stooges gigs this summer, sent me that he took on stage when he came up to dance w/all the other folks in "real cool time" at the carhaix gig last month. we all joke about how weird that little piece was - also the little film of me paddling yesterday morning, about 5500 miles due west in pedro (steve really liked that). it helps w/the nervousness, that and pacing of course (especially ronnie). this venue is 'pert-near like a "shed" deal you'd find at a clear channel place in the u.s., like the dte amphitheatre near detroit or something like that. the gig's part of a ten day festival called "foire aux vins d'alsace" meaning "alsace wine fair" (alsace got regained by the french from the germans after the first war, you can see how the area's kind of a mix between the two). great to see promoterman alain and his lieutenant olivia one more time this summer - so great we had five gigs here in france. just two bands tonight, us and a french band called superbus opening. the place is sold out, like nine thousand people. it's gig time and "loose" kicks it out for us. man, maybe I'm using too much of the bridge pickup - I did that to compensate for the boomyness of the pad (these sheds are like cement bowls) but w/all the folks here now in the crowd, the acoustics have changed much. I'm wondering if I'm blending in the way ig likes it... what's a trip is he stagedives right when ron starts his solo - damn, usually he waits for "...dog" and I'm wondering what that's about. he was a righteous plunge though, me just seeing the soles of his boots as he launched himself, whoa! "down on the street" and I'm still thinking maybe I got a little too much midrange going, hmm... better in "1969" - I can't get too focused on myself, gotta look outward and what I see is a pad full of french cats getting way into it... ig dives into them again for "I wanna be your dog" - holy smoke! he sure amazing, singing really good too. somewhere in all this time though, he ran up to me and gave me all kinds of rabbit punches in the chest - not hard ones but it did surprise me, so much so, I can't remember exactly when it happened (even though I'm writing about it on the plane the next day!) but maybe it was "tv eye," I think. he gave me another bump in "dirt" - not a hard one but just a check, I've gotten them before. I just wanna do right for these guys. he gets folks on stage to dance for "real cool time" and "no fun" and here's alexander from moscow again - he gets his shirt a little tangled up in one of my tuning keys for a moment but he gets free quick, funny to see him dance the dance he does, shimmying really low and such. some guy grabs me by the hair and kisses me, alright. band intros and ig calls me "SMOKIN' MIKE WATT" which is very nice and he also makes a point to say the name of my town the way we do, much respect to him. he gives us all nice props and then says, "...and I'm iggy and I want to go in the back and fuck everybody... and then die!" pretty intense. next comes the "1970/mindroom/fun house/l.a. blues/skull ring" section which is 'pert-near a medley cuz the way they're hooked together, iggy soaking himself w/water for "...rings." relative calm for "dead rock star" and then a long "little doll" (scotty's gracious enough to bring me in quick, much thanks to him) as ig spends a bunch of time in the crowd - same w/the second take on "...dog" - whoa. we come off stage and iggy says, "fucking soundchecks" and I'm wondering what that's about... I wonder a little too much about it and get lost in the first verse of "not right" - what the fuck, I got a chord behind somehow - what a fucking idiot I am, damn. I recover and finish ok but feel like such a stoop - not stooge, but STOOP as in stupid.
scotty's always been the nicest but he calls me on that, still being nice about it but he's right, I fucked up on "not right" and that's not happening. I gotta fucking focus. there's more truth for watt to face though when ig comes into our room and says, "did I detect some EXTRA notes in the first song tonight?" of course, I don't protest or make excuses - that would be ridiculous of me cuz I think maybe I did get carried away and jammed some fills - in fact I know I did and in doing so, I neglected being faithful to music and songs I truly love. this is not mike watt music, THIS IS THE STOOGES and I cannot allow myself to foul it up. I have fucked up and iggy is right to call me out on it. he says it sounded like he was trying to work the stage over one huge bass solo and that's why he stage dived in the first tune, he said he didn't know what else to do. he tells us the story of diz and bird (dizzy gillespie and charlie parker) getting fired from cab calloway's band cuz of the "chinese jazz" cab said they were playing. he tells me all THREE chords to "loose" and how they should be played, I am very much paying attention. of course I've heard them songs a million times but I slacked on my focus and discipline and... fuck whatever else it takes to do it right for these guys I respect so much - dave alexander too, in his name... I am quite ashamed of my behavior, I don't what to say - there is no excuse, nothing to deflect the fact I bogarted on the gig big time and did wrong. I did so wrong. iggy has me go get this good wine from his room, he's not picking on me - just telling it how it is and I respect that so maybe I can get it the fuck together and learn. I sit on the deck by the table and hear the guys talk about people from the old days, people they knew when they were younger. soundman rik comes by and I apologize to him for bogarting - I have broken what big time needs fixing. before he leaves, I tell ig I can get it together, I just weird-out sometimes... says he's gonna write me a song. I'm glad this happened in front of the whole team, it's good for me to get taken down to reality cuz I admit I lose track and that's not where I wanna be. I wanna be where I'm doing good for these guys and are faithful to them and their beautiful music. it is timeless. it can as has taught me so much. the learning cannot stop for watt. I wanna earn their forgiveness. the next gig in blibao is a very important gig.
I have to leave for the airport at four am so getting back to the 'tel at one doesn't leave much konk time. doesn't matter anyway cuz the state I'm in will not allow any of that anyway - I am much agonized over the stupid shit I did tonight. it is tearing me up. scotty gives me a big hug as I go to my room, I could never tell him how much I needed that though it still doesn't allow me to back off from all what I gotta think about. I got a lot to think about on these planes coming up. a little flight to zurich and then a little flight to london... a few hours in the heathrow people-packed torture room - it seems obvious to me that everyone here, even the most squarejohn can see what a fucking failure I am. I am disgusted w/myself. finally sometime on the eleven and half hour wailer (thank god my seat was in the very back of the plane) my conscious somehow collapsed enough to let konk smother me into some kind of shelter though waking back up, I go right to matter at heart: how to get it fucking together on the bass guitar for the stooges. I can do it, I know it. I can get it together. every moment I'm forced to think about this makes sense, I so much deserve this - otherwise would be nothing short of total arrogance and fuck if I'm going to stoop to that. this is a time for truth and I have to face it.
my sister melinda gets me on a sunny sunday afternoon at the l.a. airport. easy customs, no baggage claim and she's there right on time... nothing to bear but the weight of my heart on the failures I'm responsible for. we get talking on faulkner's "light in august" which is good cuz in that book, joe christmas has to come to terms w/what he is and accept it. likewise for watt. I will do good for these excellent stooges gentlemen next gig, I will try hard to earn their forgiveness.
saturday, august 20, 2005 - bilbao, spain
here's my third jump-over in as many weeks this month for a stooge gig and I use the singular "gig" cuz like last week in colmar, I'm traveling like twelve thousand miles for one show (like thirty hours total if you count airport time) but hey, it's the stooges! hell, no prob for me sitting in a metal tube and breathing farts all that time in sardine can position for a chance of a lifetime for someone like myself - no weight too great in the least. this episode has an added layer in the sense I'm a recovery mission to get myself together after last week's getting called on piling on the ramen. instead of getting in the day before for as usual to get a handle on the jetlag, I'm arriving day of show. my sister melinda got me to the airport at one in the afternoon - man, are the folks working here getting tired of seeing the idiot in the yellow coat yet?! I've use a standard travel outfit this summer: yellow coat my ma got me - not heavy but w/a high collar, like you'd use on a boat pluse levis and the blue short sleeve plaid shirt I wore all last summer in europe. I bring a gig t-shirt and then the return outfit: same coat (no shit) plus fresh levis, socks (yeah, I wear those coming too - something I resumed since leaving virginia after that big sickness five years ago), and a different darker blue plaid short sleeve shirt (pearloid button snaps like the other one too) - like ig said in vienna last year: "it's like we're in a cartoon!" (always the same outfits). the ride to paris was pretty much a squish-up cuz a huge guy in front of me leaned back way far and had his seat right in my face. I endured however... only nine hours of that. one thing really annoying though (!) was these boeing 777 planes having no air nozzle to blow on you like most planes so I woke up many times (konked most of the ride) in big sweats. usually I'm in a aisle seat but this time it's next to a window so the feeling of being "buried" was intensified. I was way into two hours between the flight to paris and then on to bilbao cuz de gaulle airport has you debark on to the deck and then a bus ferries you around, same to get to the next terminal you need. this can take quite a while lots of times. cuz of the layover buffer, I even got to chow a tuna baguette.
the bilbao flight was an hour and a half on a smaller crj 700 (canadian regional jet) and drizzling rain greeted me in bilbao. on the north coast of spain and just west some of france, there's lots of forested hills and mountains around w/the town in a valley cut by an inlet to the sea. beautiful. this is the biggest city in the basque country (they themselves call it euskara) part of spain and I played here last april w/my secondmen band on the last go around for my "the secondman's middle stand" opera at a pad downtown called azkena. tonight's gig is downtown too but outdoors in a public square on the botica vieja for the aste nagusia festival. jusine picks me up and on the way to the hotel, she drives by the guggenheim museum which is in a building right near the water that frank gehry designed and if you know his stuff, you can imagine the tripped out wrap-around forms he used, somehow it seems to me like an architectural picasso of several ships intersecting into each other or rather just one w/many perspectives of it being shown all at once. there's a righteous jeff koons statue of a huge dog covered w/living flowers called "puppy" out front that's pretty wild. it's right by the water and there's a righteous foot bridge called the Zubizuri right next to it that crosses the nervion. the rest of the city contrasts much w/this modern stuff - no minimarts like 7-11 or am/pm hardly around and it has an "old town" feel to it. the 'tel is called the lpez de haro and is named after the cat who "founded" the town, don diego lopez (I'm always suspicious of such claims as who founded what cuz humans are too political). man, I'm a little dingy - all this motion. also, I haven't mentioned this yet but the whole flight (both of them) I've been trying to focus all I got into doing good for iggy tonight at the gig and make up for last week. it's weighing much on my mind. it's three pm now and soundcheck's at five - I know if I lay down I'll konk and fuck that up so I just pace my room and think and think and...
five bells, so it's downstairs for watt (meaning that I take the stairs to push some blood through the carcass of mine) and it's good to see scotty and steve again, ron too a few minutes later. man, I wanna do good for them too. I'm here to learn, learn stooge music. even though it's been in me for years and years, that was like an outsider - a weirdo from pedro tuning in on their stuff cuz well, it just moved me so. being on board w/them is different, not so much theatre in the head like how their songs played on me... what they layed down back then kept coming through the speakers no matter where my crazed emotions were - it's different being part of the making and not just being on the receiving end. I've got to learn to get it together more and not go off, weird-out. there's a job to do, I'm here learn. it's a little wet out, raining on and off when we pull up to the gig site - a huge lot w/a the giant tarped-up stages you get used to seeing at outdoor shows on a field. there's no shelter for the crowd though so if the rain starts coming down, it's either umbrellas or get soaked. we do "no fun" w/jos singing and "I wanna be your dog" w/chris on pipes - iggy saves it all for the gig so he's not at soundchecks which I understand. hell, everything changes w/folks there anyway (acoustics-wise) so really, it's just a line check in a way. scotty digs it though so he can make sure the drum set he's been using is put up right. jos bought this set we got from rat scabies of the damned and scotty ain't too much into it. it don't have a good feel for him, he says. I think scotty could make any kind of kit sound good though cuz he's got the groove in his hands, in his spirit. we do a little "press conferenece" right after check and once again, ron is the man w/the spiel at hand. he articulates things really good every time we do one of these. this one's neat in the fact that ron gets asked about denis tek from one of the writers and he digs giving him props - he even wears a camouflage jacket every gig that denis tek gave him from his navy sea bag. there's talk of all the stooges stuff that's just come out: reissues of the first two records on rhino, the live "teluric chaos" album recorded live last year in tokyo and the "heavy liquid" box set on easy action documenting all kinds of 70s things.
we get back to the 'tel and there's chow supposed to be on at 8:30 but my body relents and I konk on the deck 'til just before we're to leave for gig time at eleven bells. funny how I just pop like that so many times, can't figure how that happens - especially this time w/all the stress I got going cuz of the ensuing show. it's important make-up gig for me, a way to earn some forgiveness. I know to do good I gotta relax but man, is that a challenge for mister wigster on bass. I brought a cat's cradle shirt to wear cuz I could find a cat power one. frank heath runs the cat's cradle in chapel hill, nc and I've dug working for him, a great cat. I was devoted to my cat I called the man (he died of brain cancer fiver years ago) and thinking of him could maybe rally me around getting it together tonight. we get on over to the gig and there's no one there except for a few. the rain's holding off however and by midnight it's time to go on (no opening acts before us, just records from the 60s have been playing - good shit though: "7 and 7 is," "milk cow blues," "pyschotic reaction," "I had too much to dream last night," etc.)... damn, has it filled - like twenty thousand people I'm told! damn. here goes. "alright!" iggy hollers and I run over to my place. I'm planting myself right in front of my amp, a little by scotty. I'm not going to move, I'm gonna plant and focus. it's kind of fucked for me as far as playing w/scotty from here cuz he's on a platform up high plus cymbals are in the way so I can't make any eye contact w/him. I move from my spot only a few times the whole gig, just to do "pop tart" for scotty to cue him on endings, like in "dirt" or "not right" but other than that, I am anchored. same for my playing, I play NO FILLS whatsoever... "loose," "down on the street," "1969" and "I wanna be your dog" are as faithful to the great dave alexander parts he wrote as I can make them. I keep my eyes fully glued on ig, not leaving him for anyone else for a second. "tv eye" has me shaking hard and though it's the most intense trembling I get going all gig, it's kind of tame compared to other stooge forays for me. ig's been dancing great and singing like a champ all night, good crooning on "dirt" - man, is he inspiring. our stage is real high... iggy does no leaps but does get down into "the moat" and work the folks from there. we get some kids up on the stage somehow for "real cool time" and "no fun" (I did slip in a chromatic ascension in "reall cool..." during ronnie's guitar solo but even less variation w/the "no fun" one than dave did on the record). "1970" is right down the middle - no octave even from me during steve's sax. I have to admit I'm afraid - maybe iggy even picks up on it some cuz in "mindroom" he talks about "so afraid up in the mindroom" - I know it's no way to really do a gig the best you can but that's where I'm at. it gives me a strange energy though, a weird kind of awareness. I put some freak-out into "l.a. blues" but not too much, ending it up w/a quote from coltrane's "a love supreme" (ig's told me he digs that). the two newer tunes, "skull rings" and "dead rock star" are next and I keep them solid, even w/the little embellishments I've brought to "dead..." which ron did the bass for on the album anyway and I've never gotten called on. "little doll" though has me play that riff the best I can and ONLY THAT RIFF except for the gliss the guys like that I do before the second verse. iggy brings a girl up from the crowd spontaneously and they dance for a bit during the guitar solo, pretty righteous. I bet that tripped that lady cuz she sure looked like it did - she did not come to the gig expecting that! ig sure can improvise good! like I said, he's an inspiration, truly. there's trouble w/the second "...dog" - I know scotty's had trouble w/the monitors (hell, I had to ask jos to get some singing on my side of the stage cuz there was none at first) so when ron comes in w/the intro, he has to guess at coming in w/the drums and damn if they don't come up right on the other side of the riff! oh my god. I hold out 'til ig starts singing and then follow him - the asheton's follow suit and the song's saved from total nightmare. I'm not saying it was me who did the saving cuz I think it was iggy finding the backbeat w/the drums and then me going that way w/what he was laying down. the set finish, I run off to join the guys at the side of the stage and ig tells me: "smooth bass there at the end" and man, you can't think of more relieved and appreciated idiot than that bass player watt at that moment in the entire world. I babble something silly and untogether, trying to say I was following his singing but right quick it's time for an encore of "not right" and we're done.
it's a runner for iggy so he leaves straight off in a car but I'm grateful for those kind words he gave me. I tell the guys so backstage. scotty tells me though he likes the fills, I just gotta find a middle ground. ron tells me not to lose the little things he says he likes that I've brought in. I tell them both I just wanna do good, not make iggy crazy w/"chinese jazz" or whatever... they understand. they know I obsessed w/getting it together for tonight's gig, they said they knew I was thinking about the whole week leading up. shit, it just consumed me - I want so bad to do right by these guys, I owe them and look up to them so much. the only way I'm gonna grow is to take a beat-down like what I got for what is, a chance to get humble and really learn from my clams. I have a little of the rioja wine that tourboss henry gives me. whew, has much of my own worry been weighing on me. soundman rik says he likes the bass, a grateful bow to him from me. henry said the sound out front was a big one, bonus. I know the ashetons w/their guitar and drum symphony plus iggy's pipes on top were most of that, I just wanna be the grout that can set the tiles the way they want them. intense, the rain stopping like it did for the gig but then came down it buckets once it was done. there's some kind of a metaphor in that for me somewhere...
it's hard to find words really for the sensation that ran through me right after and even during konk though it was a deep one and I didn't have all that much detail to them, I had the sense I at least didn't fuck up more and maybe I'm getting back to where I can again try and get it more together. the plane back to paris is for 10:30 am so I'm ready for the car ride at eight but I guess it was changed to 8:30 (the airport's close) but no matter cuz that allowed me to shovel some sadwich stuff for the free trough the 'tel had. the paris to l.a. flight has the back of the seat in my face once again - I couldn't even use the 'puter to chimp this 'til I got to pedro and you know what trippy about it? no huge guy there but a tiny woman in her twenties. whatever, a small price to play to get to be part of the stooge team in the basque country for a gig. my sister melinda gets me to pedro and I even get to have dinner w/my ma - she made me and my sister marilyn scallops. haven't seen marilyn in a while but we talk heavy about faulkner's "light in august" - about joe christmas and learning to come to terms w/things. I'm learning...
friday, august 26, 2005 - leeds, england
ok, time for one more hike over the water east-ways this summer. wednesday my sister melinda yet again gets my ass over to the lax airport at eight in the morning - this time I got twelve packets of the "dragon herbs" tea fluid that ig takes for gigs cuz his supply ran dry so in the two days I was back in my pedro town, roadboss eric had it shipped from where it's made in santa monica to my pad and now I got in my sack cuz in the unpressurized cargo compartment they might pop. I have a tiny clothes sack and never check in bags unless I absolutely have to (one BIG reason I kept my bass w/helperman jos in england as much as I could) which turned out to be a good thing cuz there was a change-over in chicago and my plane sat on the runway three-fourths of the hour I had to make the xfer and no way would've checked-in bags would've made it in time. lucky watt too cuz the gate arrive was right across the hall from the departing one instead of a mile-hike to the next terminal (w/a bus or two involved most likely) if it was heathrow or degaulle. I land enter england at manchester (northwest part of england) and an older gentleman named bill drives me the fortyeight miles to leeds in some pretty rainy weather though it broke up and let the sun in but the end of the ride. he was in korea for that war so he's been to pedro cuz the south koreans gave us a big bell (right near where I prac at for mac) for helping out and he went there for a commemoration so we got my town to talk about. he was given the wrong address for the 'tel (fortythree instead of fortytwo) so there's a little wander but I make it to the "42 the calls" (both the name and the address) around ten am (it's thursday now - eight hours ahead of pedro time). it's right next the river aire in a former mill from a couple hundred years or so ago that ground up "horse corn." neat how they converted it over and kept a lot of stuff rough - I can dig it. leeds had small downtown that's very hoofable and I remember much since being here last w/j mascis + the fog five years ago. I hoof around in the parts nearby (we're in the southeast) - there's huge indoor trips like the leeds city, kirkgate and the outdoor markets that have tons of stands w/folks hawking everything from fresh fish to three pound or less bras ("pound" meaning how much they're selling for, one pound is about $1.80 now). there's the big oval "corn exchange" and bus station nearby too. such a mix of classic old churches and buildings along w/new glass towers going up w/their construction cranes attending, lots of beat-up working class smallshop stuff too in various stages of gentrification - quite a mix. rain comes/goes, as does the sun. I get fish and chips at a chowpad called "oliver jakes" and it's a huge piece of haddock that's battered coated and for this land, not to greasy (use your imagination) w/thick fries and I take that back to the 'tel and shovel, then get some konk to beatdown the jet lag that's trying to get over on me. I pop in the afternoon and since I'm here before the rest of the team, doing another hoofing journey through the rest of town, getting on over to the old post office where there's a statue of the inventor james watt (rigged the steam engine so it could be put to work for more than just pumping water) and get a shot of it w/the digicamera. trippy, my pop's name is james richard watt and damn if this statue here don't give this old watt (lived from 1736 to 1819) 'pert-near the same eye's as my pop's pop, bayrd byron watt. whoa. went by the train station and past the pad I played w/j, the cockpit - it's built in the one of arches of the brick train viaduct. it's called "the carling cockpit" now - a beer company that's also sponsoring the leeds/reading festivals and owns the apollo in london where we're doing our last gig. it's getting on into night though the sun's still up and I get a donner kebab for four pounds in chowpad also built into an arch. I get back to the 'tel and visit some w/scotty - he's brought his family so after a bit I go and see ron who's brought dara from ann arbor but after some spiel and catching up, I'm in konktown pretty quick after hitting the deck.
gig day and I hoof up vicar street to this chowpad called the olympic coffe house and have an "english full breakfast" for four pounds. it's one fried egg, salty/thick/hunks of bacon, two sausages and huge mound of skinless stewed tomatoes - I can't be eating this all the time but once in a while's ok maybe. slides down easy anyway. I hoof around yet a third time and get back to the 'tel to shove off w/the crew for the venue at eleven bells. check out time so I bring my stuff which ain't much - just the clothes sack and the 'puter wackpack. not too far of a drive on the bus we've gotten for these england gigs - first time for me w/the stooges on a tour bus and it's a scandia one, typical of the boats here in europe which our more narrow than our north american kind. this gig is on a field called bramham park and pretty much on a hill w/one huge main stage and a buch of smaller ones in tents on a perimeter around it so there's like a hundred-plus bands over three days. most of them play at the reading one too, alternating the days while keeping pretty much the same lineup. rain looks threatening but has kept away mostly. I watch the first main stage band, a u.s. one called my chemical romance that recalls to my mind a lot of the pop/punk I've been hearing (didn't they play the warped tour gigs I just did? there's a bunch of bands w/this sound/look - not trying to be judgemental though). turbonegro from norway's also on this stage and I dig this band, have been on bills w/them before. I like their set but they're kind of bummed on it... a hard show for them, they tell me. they shoot out a bunch of funny money bills and I get a three dollar one w/their lead guitarist euroboy on it. I think he's a smokin' guitarist, he can get it lit. the stooges guys come and I get my gig t-shirt on which is from an irish band that opened for the secondmen last may in dublin called estel - great band. iggy's come w/nina and he's got his bright pink suit on but changes quick into his gig jeans after seeing some of the band before us, nofx. I watch their gig too - eric melvin's an old friend and we did this thing called punk rock karaoke together a number of years ago. they got almost as much as rap as songs in their set, pretty funny. I dig it. they get done and say the stooges are next, "the oldest guys playing today" - ok, so be it cuz we are! big hugs for eric when they finish and some of his crew dudes - good cats.
I'm nervous-nervous-nervous, just like ronnie but euroboy from the turbonegros calms me some (or rather distracts my neurotic mind a little) w/talk about my bass - him being a little like j mascis and liking to do gearspiel w/the music machines. much thanks to him for that. ok, gig time... the rain starts coming down as we ride up the hill in golf carts just before five pm, whoa - scary ride. now I know why I saw all the kids in the crowd w/rubber boots on - I think they're called "wellies" or something like that. there was no check so we kick into "loose" and that's where I see how we get to sound. at least I can iggy, I'm totally focused in on him and hardly ever avert my eyes his way except to check in on scotty and ron. mani's marshall amps I'm using and the little gibson bass are sounding good - helperman chris put some new d'addario strings on I brought from pedro. d. boon always used their strings and I dig them too. you gotta focus on ig cuz we key his cues and he sings when he starts verses when he feels it, not just after four times around or whatever. he's great - singing his soul out and dancing up a storm. my port knee has healed up so I can get down on the deck for his "amp ascension" part of "down on the streets" - the asheton brothers are really cooking, the band's way tight. same for "1969" (the rain's stopped - maybe that tune put a plug in the jug, huh? sure is intense enough!) but then in "...dog" I'm feeling scotty's probably having to fly blind. not cuz of the start like in bilbao last week but he ends the tune just as iggy's starting the last chorus, leaving ig to finish it 'pert-near a cappella. oh dear. I holler over to jos that scotty's gotta have the band put in his monitors. I'm hearing the drums REALLY GOOD but if that's all he's hearing, how can he play to us? it's really tough to be drummie on a big stage cuz your elevated and in the back plus you can't move like I can so as to adjust your position to one where you can "mix" the sound yourself. you're at the mercy of what's being put forth through the monitors. he has a tough time kicking into "tv eye" but that band hiccups w/him to stay together and we hammer home good, especially the chug after the solo. "dirt" has some waver but only the tiniest bit - hey, maybe it was me but I'm playing like last week after the colmar lesson - no fills and trying to keep it solid. the real trouble comes w/trying to start up "real cool time" cuz scotty can't hear ron's syncopation and gets in on the other side of the beat - total train wreck and iggy even hollers for the band to stop but he's still drumming on... whoa, I don't what to do but somehow we get it together... for the life of me, trying to think right no leaves me w/no answer - I just know it did come together... iggy talked to us before the set about putting some changes in this tune cuz this is where he brings folks up on stage but w/like a fifty foot "moat" between us and them plus being like fifteen feet up, he scissored that and instead wanted me doing whole notes on the chords for the first part of ronnie's solo and then getting it wild for the last two go arounds - we get that ending stuff pretty together. "no fun" has scotty stumbling on some fills but he keeps the groove pretty together - I can tell he's having a hell of time. thank god for that groove thing he's got built into him though cuz you could lay mile after mile of pipe such a thing - man, can he drive it home. we get to the bridge and then iggy starts calling out to the crowd to "get on up here" but the security's having none of it and I see some pretty fucked-up beatdowns on some cats. fuck that. assholes. man, ig's working his heart out and wants some peeps to join him - what's the fucking problem w/that? you give some dickheads a little authority and the fascist shit just pops right out. one cat comes out to dance or more like is able to cuz he comes from the side of stage - it's jeffe from nofx! he does a really good job, it's just a twofer - him and ig - but it's wild and lights me up. I loose it a little and go up-octave a couple of bars. fuck, gotta get a lid on the foamin', watt. aaarrrrggghh, I berate myself from the inside. band introductions next. ron's still "the heavy weight champion" and I'm still "smokin' mike watt" but scotty now is "beatnick (so and so)..." - yes, the mic stand will get thrown and thrown but iggy's driven and freight trains "1970" like nobody's business... they band is firing down the barrel and hard, a righteous intro for steve to join us on the sax at the end. I tune up during "mindroom" - the sunlight making it hard to read the tuner, so it's great there's a mute button... mercy. ig holler "fun house" and though scotty must be reading braille, he's got this one solid solid solid. you could carve a rockin' chair on it while sitting one even - it's way, way happening. "l.a. blues" is kind of a trip - we're freaking the usual amount but iggy wants more, he stretches us out to keep it going, raising the mic stand parallel w/the ground and I can see the energy moving from his body and through his arm into it, making it all a tremble. whoa. he chants his "I am you" to the peeps and then frankenstein walks off to the side of the stage and what seems like an eternity is scotty holding on 'til he finally puts four hits on the highhat and brings us into "skull ring" - we end the set strong. the kids look a little tripped out - different than our crowds on the continent but I still got the sense they dug it.
it's a tough-go for scotty in the dressing room, him saying it was his worst gig in two years but we all let him know we believe in him much. iggy had to leave right from the stage in a car so we'll see him next in london. I feel big time for scotty cuz I've been there too, thinking about the gig right after and all the chokes I've committed. damn, you never know when you gotta visit that place and for sure it's no place you wanna be. I believe in scotty though and just know he'll make up for it sunday at reading, I just know it and tell him so. I go out the dressing-trailer-w/out-wheels and talk to bassman thom of turbonegro. this cat know about pedro! hell, he knows about a lot of shit and we talk about the writer james ellroy and his quartet on los angeles: "black dahlia," "the big nowhere," "hollywood confidential" and "white jazz" - anyone who wants to get in the real history of that town has just got to read them four books, absolutely. man, we pack a lot of spiel in but I get the word we gotta go so I tell tom I'll see him sunday at reading - adios, sailor.
a four hour drive south in the bus to london but we stop about a third of the way for fish and chips - nothing like what I had yesterday, these babies are total grease city - I mean swimming in it. I have some but not enough to coagulate my gut like you know it must if you give it the chance. the adrenaline now totally gone from the gig, I konk soon for most the rest of the ride back... I know cuz I got shown pictures of my snoring ass taken by scotty's daughter. embarrassing, christ. I just give out after a while, don't have the resilience I used to. ok, better to give out after the gig than during so I won't whine about the passage of time (I know, a shitty rhyme). about ten-thirty I pop from all the turning of the boat (kind of rough ride a bit in these tall-narrow babies) and we drop anchor just east and across the road from hyde park's stanhope gate on park lane at some fancy pad called the dorchester. my room is 'pert-near as big as my apartment in pedro except for maybe some of the closet space and the kitchen I got in my pad, whoa. of course there some major 'tude from people here that comes along w/it - the little book I found on the table says the dress code is supposed to be "casual-smart" and I guess mine is more like "workedup-econo," oh well... nothing to dwell on cuz life is funny anyway. hopefully my shit will be safe enough, that's what I care about. one thing neat is a tub long enough to float me like a log w/my legs straight out w/no bend at the knee and is also way deep, damn... the big soak feels good on my soreness. after, I got the lights dark and I'm down but I toss for an hour for some reason but somehow konk came around cuz peace did finally come to the crazymind.
sunday, august 28, 2005 - reading, england
yesterday I popped at seven bells and just had to do another soak cuz of the righteous-sized tub. I fill it to the brim too so I can float it up like a log big time. shit, I could've 'pert-near floated right over and onto the deck cuz that's how melted-up I got. a look-see out the porthole showed me a sky full of blue - alright, cali weather! I thought for sure it'd be more of yesterday or even more gray/rainy but I am in fact for sure wrong. I get myself out the hatch and out of the "dorkchester" to forge for chow elsewhere cuz this pad's a major burnward for anything consumable. I head south on park lane and parallel hyde park 'til I turn northeast on piccadilly. pretty bourg (as in bourgeois) area in these parts as far as pads but I can dig all the green. in fact the park paralleling me now on the other side of the road is called "the green park." I find a coffpad called "pret" and get a big coff which here means three shots of expresso and the rest hot water. for chow, I get a "pastrami bloomer" which just is pastrami on wheat bread w/some salad greens. I also get some salt and vinegar chips (they call them "crisps") to add texture - if I get a sandwich, I usually always stuff them w/chips cuz I like the crunch. I go to the green park to consume these fixings on a bench. lots of deckchairs are out on the grass, I think they're owned by the city cuz almost of them are empty - it's still pretty early.
I get back to the 'tel and at one leave in the bus that brought us here to reading, it's the second day of the festival and I wanna see dinosaur and sleater-kinney. kevin shields (from my bloody valentine and also doing guitar for primal scream) is joining us - alright cuz I dig him much, always brings a peaceful to me when he's around though he's got an intense mind too. he talks about the young brazil cat who got shot on subway and how he wasn't running - there's been a big coverup about all that. it's about an hour to where the gig at liitle john's farm in the richfield part of reading. the land here is flat and different from the festival up in leeds. same kind of main stage and smaller stages in tents setup though. I see phil (j's wife luisa's bro) - last time I did was in berlin during last spring's secondmen euro tour and we catch up. he's good people. we're just in time for dinosaur and cuz I play tomorrow and not today there's no on-the-stage-watching for watt but that's ok cuz out front is way better for sound and seeing, I can't tell you how lame it is to see a gig on the side of the stage - especially at a big one. the sound is so bunk and you can't see shit. I brought my yellow coat (the one my ma gave me so when I pedal in the morning it's easier for people in cars to see me and hopefully harder to hit) but man, the warmness is stewing me up so I have put it around my waist and how I hate doing that, crimony. whatever, dinosaur is really good though the sounds pretty compressed and there's some wind to carry away the sound at times but not too bad. their soundman arjay (a really good cat) is doing the best job he can. it's amazing seeing lou on bass w/his former guys - I never noticed how high up over the fretboard is his strums and he does some huge strums ('pert-near townshends!) but his time is right on and the tone nice and throaty. at times it disappears and he's miming it and at others, it roars - all dependent on the wind. murph's doing the drums up good too - no stumblebum or leadfoot. when they're done, I walk over w/lou to a tent where this band called be your own pet is playing - of course, I give him the whole blow-by-blow of what I experienced, just like I did w/j as soon as I saw him. I'm weird that way. I really dug it though and want them to know. somehow I lose lou and rejoin j and we head back cuz there's nothing but generic doing the robot on the mainstage. good catching up w/j cuz it's been some time since I've been really been able to. he's looking good and his playing earlier was cookin'. after a while I see murph and the cat he's talking to gives me the big hug-up... it's dave grohl. been ages since I've seen him. he tells me this great story about being seventeen and playing w/scream - they had this gig at a pad where earlier the same night iggy was having a record release party. scream's soundcheck was at noon so they're just hanging around after when ig shows and asks who the drummer is. dave said it was him. ig asks if he knows stooges? dave says, "fuck yeah" and he did a few tunes w/iggy at the party - ig on guitar and scream's skeeter on bass. whoa, a total mindblow for him. dave brings me backstage to meet his ma. ten years ago was the foo fighter's first tour and it was w/me where they played first and then dave played w/me - half the set on the drums and half on the guitar while ed vedder was on guitar the whole time. when he did drums, pat smear filled in for the second guitar. that was quite a tour - it was called the "ring spiel" tour and it was for my "ball-hog or tugboat" album. I met his ma then. she taught literature but said cuz of that, she never had time to read 'til now so we talk lots about books and then it got on to my history w/punk, the sickness that almost killed me, my ma and pop - all kinds of trips... like two hours went by like that... damn, didn't mean to bogart all that spiel on her like that! I was too embarrassed of myself to accept her invite to get on stage w/her, aaarrrggghhhh I get flustered so when cuz of getting so wound/spun. I was glad though I got to tell her how much I dig her boy and the way he can slam a drum set, damn if he ain't one of the best ever I got the privilege to play along side - amazing. I got to say too he's a very, very generous man - just thinking of that tour and ed too. both cats w/huge hearts. like these stooges guys also - my life's been very blessed to come into situations w/such genuine niceness and good souls. I am inspired! here I'm going off but it's hard for me not too cuz it ain't just about being social and whatever - I'm deep down moved by people even though my life is so much "man alone" in this world. it's a trip when I think about it, really... anyway, roadboss eric said the boat was shoving off too so I'm w/the team I came w/out here. I got to say bye to j and told him I see the dinosaur take on barry hogan's "don't look back" series where they're doing "you're living all over me" the day after we do "fun house" (that's what's up for the hammersmith apollo gig tuesday). it's some movie (I ain't big on most movies) in the back but there's a cat on board in the front part who came to london from milano (italy) twentyfour years ago and we talk a bunch about the old punk days. he's a cool people, much so. man though, did I spiel it up big time today or what? I have to say I spend most my days alone in my pedro town where the only words that get by others are from my guys at prac. I don't even use the phone much except to talk to my old bud tony (he cleans people's pools) or nanny (she keeps up a little childrens zoo). I'm pretty much a social retard but you might not know it hearing the fucking yammering that flooded out of me on day two of the reading festival. it makes me feel awkward just thinking about it. I'm such a fucking dork. I start thinking "who is this fucking watt - some kind of wackfuck or what?" I am very insecure and untogether in the social shit, a fucking bozo. aaarrrggghhh, the recriminations I have feel I just have to put myself through in an attempt to get the keel right. embarrassing. thank god for my pedro town and the thermos bottle it keeps me in. so I come out and work these big things from time to time and see old friends and/or interesting people and just froth. I'm an emotional cripple in so many ways, christ... it's not who you know but what work you got to show for. I get so self-conscious about this afterwards always. the only attempt at trying to get at any of this shit is more humbling situations, I guess. like most fucked up stuff I get wrong, I just gotta get beat out of me.
day three (sunday) of the reading festival is the stooges turn and I began it by popping at like ten and half bells - whoa, that's trippy... I can't remember when I popped that late last but it might've been on one of the days here in europe cuz I'm always seeing the crack of dawn in pedro (where I can pedal/paddle there and then). I hurry it up out the hatch w/out a soak so I can get blood gushing through me and my motor going - I retrace my steps from yesterday but go a little further to the green gate "underground" which means subway ("the tube") station. they got chowpads here and I get a chicken wrap - like a smaller version of hippy burrito in the u.s. (not much mexican about it all except the looks though the ends are cut off). again I eat in the green park but this time a squirrel gives me a little company. the tails of these guys aren't as bushy as the ones in pedro. there's some pigeons and magpies who come by time to time too. again, it's cali weather if not more so - not a cloud in the sky today, damn! I put on the sleater-kinney t-shirt their drummer janet sent me a couple of weeks ago (all these gigs since coachella and I've still been lucky enough to have a unique shirt for each show due to kindness like that - the only other time I'm really wearing t-shirts is under my yellow coat when I'm pedaling or a long-sleeve one under my life vest when I'm paddling) and at two in the afternoon, we shove off once again for reading but this time w/my stoogemates to play not just to watch. an hour west of london (it's actually in near reading, in richfield at some place called "little johns farm"), we get to the festival and it's even hotter than yesterday - hotter than a lot of pedro days and way WAY bright, intense. there's over a hundred thousand people in attendance - also intense. ig tells us the basic plan is like leeds - though he was intense (I use this word a lot, I know) about it in the moment, he has no harshness for the clams that went down there and he even says if there were clams to blow, then that was the place to blow them. he doesn't want to stress scotty out w/any burden - not any more than scotty's giving himself but I reassure him I'm there to do all I can by helping him w/cues and staying focused myself. cuz of getting here later than at leeds, I missed the turbonegro guys play but get to talk w/them a little but they gotta bail right when we go on cuz of the next gig they gotta play. damn. I do get a picture though w/their keyboard/guitar cat named paul who's a great dancer, hoofin' it up when they do their show. their group is quite a collection of unique personalities! it seems the longer the time goes by, the brighter the sun gets - why isn't it diminishing?! tourboss henry gets the time moved up to 5:05 pm - great. nervous time in the stooges holding pen is a very emotional think - ron's almost pacing a moat in the deck and you'd swear scotty's gonna pound right through the prac pad think strapped to his leg. I stretch and wring my hands out - I mean, WRING them out, making them as relaxed and loose as they can get and then just shake the fuck out of them at the wrists and twisting at the elbows. cramps are the big thing I can't let happen during the gig - after, that's 'pert-near inevitable but it's a really hard go if it happens when we're playing.
ok, gig time. the way they got the main stage pointing, the sun is like a major MAJOR spotlight about 2:30 up and 10:30 from center if you think of the x and y axis in front of us like a clock w/12:00 straight ahead and straight up. what that means is that there's absolutely no shade on the stage - it's being lit up like the insides of one of those "suzy homemaker ovens" from the old days - it used a fucking light bulb up real close to cook up cakes. I ain't complaining though but rather observing a little for the tour spiel I'm chimping here - like ig says a little later on stage: "we're glad to be here... we're glad to be anywhere!" gathered on the side (iggy likes us coming in from stage left), he hollers "let's go!" and the set's on... scotty counts four on the highhat for "loose" and ron's rails that e chord to ring us in. once again, no fills from watt - just three chords over and over like ig wants it, like the way I learned young before my mind started twisting it up w/coltrane thoughts but know my beginnings w/where I first recognized what might be the bass at what I was hearing (I'm a slow learner), bruce w/cream or entwistle w/who. anyway - that's out and the moment right now is in... a shitload of folks out there, maybe the most we've ever played for. not like the continent though where all this summer's previous gigs have been - these english cats are more like (a little bit now) a u.s. crowd of young people (though not as young as two days ago at leeds on the average) where you can tell canned television music has made maybe more dents in them. they are enthusiastic though and ig whips them good, extending the riff parts before firing off the verses. "down on the street" next and I'm down on my knees for the "ig humps watt's amps part" - sure hope mani gets some good voodoo on his gear he's let me use this summer when he goes back to working it himself. someone told me that before primal scream, he was in the stone roses - another english. I never heard them but I'm sure he was great cuz he's sure good where I've seen him playing w/bobby and kevin. man, I'm getting on a tangent here, huh? that's my fucked-up self, it'll get that way when I'm even talking w/someone, making them feel like they've been steamrolled but it's more like me weirding-out and not really being what I wanna be. I'm kind of aware of it and it's a BIG reason I 'pert-near never look out at the crowd when I'm working w/the stooges on a gig and have a big hunk of the set w/me staring at ig - like ninety percent. I get caught up in emotion and even if I was glued to scotty or ronnie w/my eyeballs, I'd probably still have a good chance of falling/failing. w/iggy in my eyes, I know exactly where we are, the big struggle w/me then is w/not foaming and going off ("chinese jazz") and keep from skidding. lots of time, I don't realize the sounds involved - especially in the totality of it all (iggy's got a great perspective on that), it's 'pert-near like I got a water hose all coiled up in my arms and some just forced a shitload of pressure down it and it's trying to bust loose. weird for a bass, more like stream of conscious writing I've read in joyce or faulkner! ok, back to the gig - song three: "1969" and it's moving pretty rapid, these guys love jamming them quicker. ig hollers: "c'mon scotty!" though scotty's doing real good - I know this gig is weighing heavy on his mind (later when we're back to the backstage he tells me: "I wanted some redemption"). the sweat's coming off me now... ok, seems pretty much expected! all our cues are tight, ig tells the folks: "I wanna do a fucking animal song - break up this fucking sunny day... I wanna be your dog!" he's having to hold his hand up cuz it's a bullseye for mister solar disk to pour is light right into ours. no can do w/watt cuz he's got both paws on the bass but I'm really not looking out either - I got my eyes glued to the ig w/check ins time to time on action and asheton. ron's "...dog" so wails me such that I gotta get down on my knees in front of his amp and let the sound skewere me - this is danger cuz I could lost in it and have him take me into orbit but I bob my head some to check w/scotty's snare and keep my power dry. iggy goes into down off the huge stage, across the moat of security buoy-persons and into the kids - letting them let their laying of hands get going on him. of course he's back up on the downbeat to bring our dynamic down: "I'm in love... love," he says what I'm thinking cuz I am into this band SO much, crimony! I did some little turn-around before the choruses in this one, don't know why - shit, don't know why but the were tiny and kind of to just ramp in the bar like 'pert-near it was a drum thing... I really don't do these things to call attention to myself, it's to set things up but like I've said before - I weird out and lose perspective. I'm here to learn. I get carried away w/"tv eye" - not on the bass so much (only one little octave two-beat thing in ron's solo - damn, was he blazing - at the same time iggy had just walked by stiff-legged w/arms straight out in front, like a karloff frankenstein thing... I lost it for ONE second or maybe TWO) cuz I held to one of the most righteous riffs ever writ, there's a way to pump it by playing it just so - millions of notes will not help you, watt... that "indoctrination" is 'pert-near a parallel to "consumer schooling" all of us have to suffer be foisted on if I can think out loud here a little but not to make an excuse... I love the way "tv eye" is one riff/one chord/one fucking mindblow for idiot watt! short chug and then the "ram it!" parts get nailed (funny how we had the most insane ideas what iggy was saying when we were younger, finding out the "actual" words later bust my gut what 'tards we were) and tremble it up as the three real stooges do the coda part nice. I do get to do the last note w/them, iggy bring it down w/a leap. the band's tight, whoa (like what he says so many time in the song we just did!). he's been bleeding on his chest every gig this summer 'pert-near and it either happens when he's climbing back on stage or when he slams himself to the deck in "dirt" - scotty says the laying on deck he does in this tune used to happen lots of the sets in the old days but he's only down in these current days for the is one, he says on the mic before scotty brings it in: "sometimes you're up and sometimes your down - that's why we call this one dirt." he means, man. he sings it great too, love it so. my buddy jimbo told me it's been his favorite for years. I don't that just came to me! it's weird about chimping this spiel and the way my memory works - or doesn't! for instance: here it is, the next morning and I can't remember if anyone got up on stage and danced w/iggy for "real cool time" and "no fun" - I don't think so but to be honest, I couldn't swear to it. my head goes into some insane moves w/this stooge stuff running through me, torques me big time. I just know it was fun as hell to play - taking ig's thoughts on doing whole notes during the first two chord run-throughs of ron's solos and then wailing it out for the ending. I'm pretty sure we were up there alone... or maybe it was him going down into it and w/them again, like w/"...dog" - aahh, I embarrassed not to know for sure. it was getting hotter and hotter though for sure... whoa, plastic-armyman-under-the-sun-throught-the-magnifying-glass, big time (I confess doing this in navy housing as a boy and melting them into blobs, maybe hence the karma?!). band intros from iggy before "1970" - the deck wet w/my sweat gets mopped up by helperman jos - we're both puzzled on how to tune w/the sun shining directly down on the tuner's light emitting diodes. there's not one speck of shade on the stage, lit like a nam-era helicopter burning (they were made of magnesium and would burn white as a firework). "1970" slams in hard, holy cow! out of my mind, sunday afternoon... for the bozo on bass, sun's putting a beatdown on me but I try my hardest to shake whatever senses into/out of me. I keep it straight but add some octave to "I feel alright!" freak where mister mackay makes his entrance but not w/pulls like maybe four gigs and more before but w/quick glisses from up on the neck down. we rumble it out (ig giving scotty a cue) into a kind of short "mindroom" before I get my holler to start the only tune I do w/these guys - "fun house!" says ig and we bumpfunk that one up big time. I shadow ron's riff only once now (which is kind of a couplet anyway) so I get can back to give room for iggy to have us "let me in" (meaning him). there's a good drama though so that's why I got that little thing there. see, all these years have put stooges songs in my heads like they we're 'pert-near films w/lighting, casting, dialog - the whole bit. I know that's weird but they've been very profound on me and their totality as tunes/visions has embedded itself on me more than bass licks though I dig dave alexanders stuff big time - if you wanna talk bass, his stuff has taught me so much and still does. I think ig's telling me to back to the well every time I werid out and lose perspective. good stuff. a shorter "l.a. blues" - iggy's reading the gig pace and wants us into "skull ring" soon. he gets in some more karloff walks in right before though as the mic goes boom on the deck and he waters up off stage to leap back out w/us in time for the first words. man, this baby rolls hard and good take on this tune. I think we're done - any way that was the plan and I got my bass over my head when ig says, "'not right' - right now!" and we're pop that one out of this onstage oven (maybe more of a grill? nah, the heat's not from below). much mower power here, damn - the only clam from scotty all night is at the end - both me and ig where there to "pop tart" him out ('pert-near in stereo!) but he had his head buried down and blew right past the ending and a couple of bars of "just scotty" to end our sit. oh well. he still great, that was a little thing and by the way did I mention myself going to 'd' instead of 'e' for a brief moment in the beginning of verse two of "no fun," then? convenient of me, huh? fucking bozo watt... no worry to scotty, I'm hug him the whole way to the back parts that he got the "redemption" he was asking for. he's there for me every time, even w/a little big of clammage in leeds - he grooved smoov - love him, love this band.
back at the "(f)artist area," we do the gig decompress. iggy comes and reviews the gig, he dug it. he also talks to me about seeing the "we jam econo" documentary I flowed him. he saw it last night and said he wanted to talk to me about it but he had the gig to do and wanted to discuss when we got finished. ig focuses much before a gig and it's good for him to be in his own space. sometimes I think people don't realize this and want to interact w/him before it's showtime and that's not happening. it's a matter of priorities and gives all he has for a gig so it makes sense he gets alonetime to get the focus it takes together. anyway, he said he dug the minutemen piece and especially liked the vibe of the people who were talking in it, he was digging that scene. he said I kind of reminded him of neal cassady (the cat jack kerouac fictionalized as dean moriarty in his "on the road" book). he also said he really liked how earnest d. boon was in he was performing, saying he reminded him some of josh homme (the mainman in the queens of the stoneage band). he said he could tell my playing got better as the band went on - he liked the bass lick in "the anchor" the best. all this meant much to me cuz I respect iggy so and dig the fact he says what's on his mind - no hemmin' and hawin' for him. nina tells me she liked my ma being in it, I tell her all of us minutemen's mas were very important to our music and our band - they had much influence on us.
I go to get chow and see eric melvin from nofx so I rap w/him a bit, he's a good friend (I used to play w/him in the punk rock karaoke band). I see other folks too, that's the way these festival things are - you're bumping into all kinds of peeps and it's kind of neat. I get back to the asheton brothers after a while... dark's coming on and I don't wanna hold up the boat when it's shove-off time. I also always dig being w/ron and scotty, they're the best. the marilyn manson band is on while we get the word to bail and we have to run some gauntlet to get past and get to the bus. layers of privilege, ain't that the human condition? we are funny creatures. I konk the whole ride back to the 'tel in london. in my room I get to finally yank the sweaty levis from me and hose-off in the shower, whew. not even midnight but I'm tuckered big time and konk quick.
tuesday, august 30, 2005 - london, england
yesterday (monday) I pop early to find the cramping in my body finally has subsided. damn, I don't really know how I konked w/all the spasms my muscles were going through after that sweaty gig under the blister sun at reading, what a trip. anyway, lots of sun when I check out the window - whoa, I gotta get out quick cuz you never know how long that's gonna last in these parts. day off today anyway so why not hoof my brains out? when it's like cali weather here, makes sense to hoof it up! I go north this time up park lane and then across from speaker's corner, east on oxford street. it would've been neat to see speaker's corner on a sunday cuz there's some intense spiels but it's the day after anyway - should've though of that yesterday. anyway, oxford street is like one of the only streets in london kind of like a u.s. one which means it's more than two or three blocks long (and lots of times though just one!). however, it's mershed up the yang and like one big gap ad, yech. I gotta get off this road so I go south on regent street looking for chow and find something econo (very hard in this part of town), a "full english breakfast" for five pounds near piccadilly circus (yeah, econo - that's like nine bucks! but it is pretty econo for this town). I had sidetracked down carnaby street but it being a "bank holiday" (I've been told it's not a holiday in honor of banks but just a name for a day most folks have off), everything there was close. looked pretty mersh anyway (mersh = commercial). you just have names of places in your head from what you've read or movies or whatever and you wanna check how this jives (or don't) w/reality. I shoved down that chow, circled the eros fountain at picadilly circus explored around westminister. yeah, this isn't really londontown proper - it's the part where most of the government is but that's down by the river thames and where I'll go tomorrow. the blend of old and new, trippy. people look like they do in the u.s. a lot - same thing on the continent across the channel. I mean they talk different but you'd be amazed on how much looks aren't that much different except for maybe the lack of tan thing which must be intense on these folks now w/the sun blazing. lots of pink among the pasty! I don't mean to be cruel, you see this up in fargo too. now as for the structures and the way things are laid out, that's a trip. quite a mix of old and new and it's quite interesting for me. I complete my "grand loop" by going down picadilly towards our 'tel and hose off cuz I was in such a rush to get out this morning, I spaced on that. looks like the sun's gonna hold all day though. I chimp yesterday's happenings in the diary for a while.
on my way in earlier, I met iggy's assistantman spencer and he told me there's a caribbean festival in hyde park today so I once more venture out and cross park lane to check that out. yep, there's a big stage setup and all kinds of acts going on. there's also chow tents all about so I get some jerked chicken curried goat when dinner time comes. there's some great dancing and music up on the stage and I'm sitting on the grass checking it all out. there's a group of women in black burkas sitting nearby, probably hot under all that but they look like they're having a good time (I should talk, I'm wearing a flannel). the last act I see is from brazil, these lady dancers in gigantic costumes - huge ones made to look like the moon, butterflies, birds, flames and peacocks. whoa, pretty intense! there's a trippy kind of police van w/a camera in a rotating ball checking things out. the guy in there must feeling like being on a periscope during submarine duty! I pass a monument for "animals in war - they had no choice" and it makes me think... right after, this cab passes by that has an ad painted on it's door saying "what kind of poker animal are you?" hmm... dark starts to come so I make my way back to the 'tel and check out the internet. hey, there's three stooges songs from the reading festival on streaming video and audio - damn if ron, scotty and iggy ain't tearing it up! I guess I might've been ok but the tiny speakers on the 'puter don't let the bass come up too much. knobman rik did a great job w/the mix though, perfect. they put a newspaper under my door and it says here that "the magic christian" is on - a movie from 1969 w/peter sellers and ringo starr. how many times have I seen bits of this but never the whole thing? well, I'm gonna see the whole thing in one chunk and I dug it much. it's a trip and pretty funny, loading up the oncoming konk w/lots of laughs.
I pop at the crack of dawn - it's the day of the big "fun house" gig at the hammersmith apollo. I am nervous and so why not hoof that crazy shit off? off w/me then. I hose off quick and then make for the hatch - man, is there some hard looks from the dudes in the fancy coat and hat get-up at the door... don't they realize I'm working people just like them? well, not just like but close enough. we humans are funny. I go to the green park once again but this time walk across it and through saint james park to buckingham palace. pretty intense w/the bigness of everything but I'm digging more all the ducks and geese nearby, they're quite friendly. the geese are big gray ones w/really orange beaks. I head for the river and come up on westminister abbey, an impressive cathedral. I take as many pictures of it as I do of the feathered friends I just met. the gargoyles trip me out the most though it all captivates me much. same w/the parliament building. all the stuff carved into it, crimony! there's lots of police and barriers but no one gives me any hassles, even w/the tiny camera getting whipped out constantly by me. I get on the bridge over the thames but only go half way in order to get a good shot of big ben. I even get a little movie of it ringing its chimes! I'd like to hoof around on the south shore (the giant ferris wheel "the london eye" towers up from over there) but can't get too wore out cuz of tonight's gig. some lady gives me a sprig of pine to put in my shirt in exchange for some money for starving kids. well, the smallest bill I have is a ten one! aaaarrrggghhh. I hope it helped out some. I go by the government buildings, all of them massive. there's real heavy security and 10 downing street, where the prime minister lives and I'm not to make any problems so I pass by but circle back to see if they let me take a picture down the street. the policeman says ok but man, does he have a serious look on his face. it shakes me up some. I know it's not just me being a dork from pedro but just these times we're in. I don't even think twice about visiting around the u.s. embassy - no way! I get as close as the edge of trafalgar square and chow a tuna sandwich. then I make my way to "the mall" cuz that's where I played w/my secondmen last may, at a pad called ica (institute for contemporary art). barry, the cat putting on tonight's show, put that one on. he also does the "all tomorrow's parties festival" too. the sky is still blue as it can be, the sun wailing down. I know I keep harping on that but it's so unusual for what I've usually experienced here - even in the summer - which is gray and rainy. it makes of when I played here in may - it was a sunny day then too, maybe I bring some cali w/me, huh? I tell you what though: my "little journey" today turns out to be like seven hours straight of hoofing and getting like two hundred shots snapped... better get back and soak some before sound check. near the 'tel, I see a newstand that says "hurricane kills 55 - pictures" and think about this storm katrina that was supposed to be heading towards new orleans - that must be it... but the worded it, "pictures" - like pictures of "55 dead" or what? it weirds out too much to really have a look. anyway, to the 'tel (the "dorkchester") to soak - that I do and I soak good. glad I konked early last night cuz I would've been paying for it now. one thing about this pad that I like: a deep, long tub - very happening for a good soak. shit, I almost konk in it!
even though we're kind of west, the hammersmith apollo (where we're playing tonight) is even more so - I saw it when I came into town a couple of weeks ago for that colmar, france gig (from cali, I went here first and then joined scotty, ron and eric for the flight to the continent). in fact, we got the same driver, joe! alright, he's very cool people. it takes a while even to go a little bit in this town, let me tell you. we get there while there's still daylight and it's so neat to read "the stooges - sold out" up there on the marquee. whoa. the stage in this place is huge, 'pert-near wider than these out door gigs w/out people, the sound's a fucking din. good to see slouch again, he's hear helping out jos. we do a couple of tunes - jos singing "no fun" and helperman chris doing "I wanna be your dog" and then the big drive back. that's why I like staying at the venue after soundcheck cuz all the driving is crazy. I wanna stay w/the team though tonight cuz it is a big gig. it must've been thirty minutes top for the check, ronnie told us to move it and we did. back at the 'tel though, I'm so nervous that I pace in my room 'pert near the entire time 'til it's time to leave again for the venue. oh boy. as the car pulls in, dave grohl's cousin comes up to the window and asks for me to get him in cuz it's sold out. I spent time spieling w/him on saturday and luckily it's no prob cuz barry's people are cool about that. I don't lean to hard on folks for that kind of stuff anyway cuz I hate feeling like a dick leech. what barry's got going is this series called "don't look back" where folks re-create records live that they've recorded in the past. we're the fist "installment" to roll off. we get into the dressing room and find our laminate passes - a picture of bob hope is on them and ron's way into that, funny. I put on tonight's gig shirt - a black one that says "el may" cuz I dig that band much. lots of pacing now - double time what I did at the 'tel but at least I got the bass to work nervous shit out through my fingers. scotty's pounding away on his knee-mounted prac pad while ron paces and chimney smokes cigarettes. dara's here too and is good company, keeping us calm. scotty's girlfriend and daughter is too. tourboss henry has put on a band of his from poland called the cool kids of death and they start the show off but I'm to crazed to watch. ig comes down to brief us on the plan: we're playing all of "fun house" in order and then he'll call out what's next. he assures us it'll be just two more at the most but hell, I'm ready to play any and everything he wants.
what seems like an eternity finally passes (it's always like this!) and it's time. it's a tangled spinal tap-esque route to the stage but we find our way and find the whole pad filled to the brim w/folks, like five thousand-plus and they're all hollering. there's a huge balcony hanging over too w/maybe a third of them, it's surreal the way it looks. man, is there a powderkeg of energy in here or what?! scotty hihat hits four clicks to start "down on the street" and we're off. I really mean off cuz these are guys are playing it up quick, probably to match the pace of everyone's hearts! man, is the sound so much different than at soundcheck. I can barely any bass so I stand close on my amp but not too far from the drums so I'll stay on beat. I'm am a little bit shaky inside and my fingers seem to just barely stay where they're supposed to while my body is totally shaky, quaking up a big tremor. ig's working the stage like a champ, from one end to the other - port to starboard and fore to aft - he's more than amazing, it's a total mindblow. man, is he lit for this gig! so are we. it's now such a big blur to think about even cuz the moment had me so swallowed up. "loose" went next though and it's run down the drag strip w/this baby, whew! I venture out a little for "tv eye" but inch back to the amp so I don't get my sound lost. I know rik's got in control out front, he's got it all in his hands if all we have to do is deliver. I think the amp of mani's I'm using is getting her speakers ground up good cuz it sure sounds rough so I back up a little on the gain. "dirt" gives us a little bit of breather just cuz of the way it is but that don't make it that much less intense, just different. it's side two's turn now and we rip into "1970" - steve mackay's time to make his entrance at the tune's but first it's ron's turn to smoke everyone w/some cannon-popping lead guitar soaring dive bombs... then it's "steve - blow!" whoa. iggy holler's "fun house" and I get us into that one... man, is it funky and wild! ig's dancing and gliding like the stage was made of ice, incredible. we plummet into "l.a. blues" and it's real o-mind freakout to the max! "I am you" iggy tells the folks and the piece is done. whoa, it was like twentyfive minutes or something, shorter than the album - I think maybe cuz of the tempos we hiked the tunes up to. you work the room though, right? I think the situation called for it, it wasn't about trying to re-do such a great album that was done right in the first place. it had to have its own character to suit the moment we're in now. anyway, we're not off the stage yet - iggy has launch into "skull ring" and 'pert-near even tackles me in one point. I stay on my feet somehow though, it's funny when he does that - I'm way into it. I'm a little scared for my weak-ass knees but I understand that he's getting the shit going and that means going off! we run off the stage and I crouch in front of iggy while he's getting some moisture down the pipe. he looks at me and asks "are we in tune?" I bet that's the last think you'd think you'd hear the moment after a stooge gig but he's on the total awares. I tell him we are and he gets us back on and into "1969" which pummels big time w/it's groove, scotty slamming it up heavy. animal song next - "I wanna be your dog" which has some clammage but we persevere and drive it home. ig asks the folks if they got the balls to get up on stage for "real cool time" and it's a massive invasion but not belig or an angry one - I get many hugs from cats telling me they're way into it. the melee extends into "no fun" and we're swamped w/folks dancing up a storm but no one puts a damper in the pamper in the least. it's a blast and then we're done - I run out the side door into the outside and ask liz for some "fuego" (fire in spanish) but it makes no sense to her, I'm saying it like a crazy man - like an idiot. iggy calls back yet again and does band intros and calls another tune, "little doll" which me and scotty start together in our new way of doing it, making sure we're in sync. man, is it moving this room - whoa. "not right" is next and the gig gets finally close w/us doing "dead rock star" up. wow.
I have soaked the whole outfit. funny watt w/wet black tshirt cling on him! my glasses fog big time when I put them on... there's a guy here w/his wife, where have I seen him before - an older gentleman... yeah, it's roger mayer, the cat who made effects for hendrix! yeah, I met him w/j mascis - ron did too. I'm just a little out of it and don't have all my bolts on tight upstairs. roger's a nice cat. we rest some and then head out to where people want to meet us. it's so great to see kevin shields and we talk some. there's a young man from the u.s. too that I was friends w/during the six warped tour shows I did, james fee. he has a tangled adventure to tell me, I'm glad he made it to the gig, missed him at the festivals. bobby gillespie sees me and talks to me a bit, saying he thought his band was better when we played a year and half ago in japan but he really dug tonight's gig. I wanna talk w/him some more but he just disappears, he's trippy like that - good cat though. tourboss henry rounds us up - we're like the last ones in the pad and we make the drive back to the 'tel which is way easier this time of night. I peel out of my outfit and hose off - don't wanna konk like this. then it's to the deck w/me and next stop, sleepytown.
we stayed an extra day so we could see dinosaur do their "you're living all over me" album at koko. I hoofed as much as I could during the day (we switched to a more modest 'tel in kennsington) but soreness on my legs was setting in and I 'pert-near had to drag around my right one like it was a peg. it was great to see lou singing w/j again and he played bass great. the sound was all blur but I dug it still. when it was over and I got back to the 'tel, I felt my anchor catch something and thought I freed it up ok. later on the plane home though I realized it was gone. fuck! I had that seven years, after someone gave it to me during the last tour of my "contemplating the engine room" opera in cambridge, ma. aaaarrrrrrggggghhhhhh. well, at least I was part of this wild stooges wail through england, that more made it up for losing that... kind of. back to pedro for watt...
iggy pop + the stooges
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